How Is A Legal Separation Different From A Divorce?

Unlike divorce, a legal separation does not put an end to the marriage, it enables you to live separately but remain married. During the time you are living apart, you have a court order that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each spouse. A legally ordered separation is a feasible option for married couples that desire to live apart but refrain from severing the legal title/bind of the marriage. In other words, it allows for the couple to continue referring to each other as their spouse and maintaining certain benefits, while at the same time allows for the advancement of their separate lives. Additionally, or inclusively, a legal separation agreement must be drafted to address an array of issues.  Issues that can be addressed in a separation agreement are division of assets and debts, child custody and support, visitation schedules and spousal support.

The same issues addressed during the divorce process are also addressed in a separation agreement. A separation agreement can protect your interests until the decision is made to file for divorce. The separation agreement also sets a precedence for the divorce that may follow. If you divorce after a separation and your case goes to court, a judge is likely to assume that since you were satisfied with the separation agreement, the agreement should carry over to the divorce settlement agreement. For that reason, it is important that you come to a separation agreement you can live with long term.

In a legal separation, the properties and assets of the couple remain under the ownership of both parties unless otherwise stated in the agreement; assets remain martial. Furthermore, both parties maintain the legal rights over the assets, eliminating the possibility of a deceptive scheme. However, divorce puts and end not only to the legitimacy of a marriage, but also terminates the physical, emotional, and financial connections and bonds between the spouses. This includes the termination of health insurance plans of the non-employee spouse, something that can be problematic since in many cases, one of the reasons of staying unhappily married instead of filing a divorce is to be able to retain medical insurance benefits. Legal separation provides a practical, beneficial solution for couples; this way all medical benefits remain available for the non-employee spouse.

If a recently married couple decides that marriage is not the right choice for them a legal separation agreement may be in order. The drafting of such a document enables the couple to move on with their lives separately while waiting for their marriage to hit the 10-year mark. It is worth noting that marriages that last less than 10 years are ineligible for social security spousal advantages and benefits. Married couples also usually get the benefit of tax shields or exemptions. Such couples typically have fewer taxes due. However, once a marriage is dissolved through divorce, their status becomes ‘single’ and most likely will incur higher tax dues.

Although a legal separation and divorce have many things in common there are some advantages to separating rather than a divorcing. Some of those advantages include: allowing couples time apart, away from the conflict of the marriage to decide if divorce is what they truly want. It allows for the retention of medical benefits and certain other benefits that divorce would bring to an end. Remaining married for 10 years or more also means being able to take advantage of certain social security benefits for a spouse. Furthermore, of the decision to divorce is made, the legal separation agreement can be converted into a divorce settlement agreement.

Legal separation allows a couple to spend time apart and the possibility to contemplate their various options, one of which may be divorce. It is not uncommon for divorce settlements to sometimes result in regrets for both parties. Separation, in contrast to a (permanent) divorce, allows the spouses an ample amount of time to reflect on their possible courses of actions. It is even possible that a legal separation leads to reconciliation. A formal, legal divorce might not be for every couple, vice versa neither may a legal separation. It all depends on the circumstances suitable to each individual partnership in regards to which option is more suitable and practically beneficial for them.

If you need legal help and advice on any family law matter please call Sarah Chan on 01536 276300.